The Word is Out

I am going to retire from teaching at the end of this school year.

It is with sadness and joy that I made this decision. Sadness – because I love to teach and I love the students. Joy – because I will be entering a new phase of life.

I began my teaching career 40 years ago during the 1974-1975 school year. I taught at Almond School in Swain County and I knew I had found my calling. Almond School was a small K-8 community school with amazing parent involvement and excellent teachers. I was mentored by some of the best. I taught in Swain County for three years during which time I met Phil. We got married, and June 9th of that 3rd year we had our first child – he was born the last day of school.

Miss Gayle Barker -1975

Miss Gayle Barker -1975


For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I have not taught school all 40 of those years. I stayed home with small children, volunteered at our church’s Christian School part-time and volunteered for the Jackson County Department of Public Health. Volunteering for the Health Department turned into a part-time job that involved teaching in all the schools in Jackson County.

I returned to full-time teaching and finally – as my mother loves to point out – starting using my college degree – art. Teaching art has given me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure that has confirmed for me that I was right where I was supposed to be – Smoky Mountain High School.

The decision to retire is based on three situations that confirmed this was the right time –

  • my parents, who had lived with us for 8 1/2 years, moved into a retirement community in my hometown of Wheaton, Illinois where my brother and his wife live. My father will be 91 next week and my mother will be 87 the week after. I miss them and want to go visit them more frequently.
  • our oldest daughter now lives in Maryland with her husband and four children and I plan to make that trip more often. I don’t want to miss so much of their young lives.
  • our youngest daughter will be having our 12th grandchild in August and I want to be available to assist her in every way I can. Our son-in-law said he would build a shed in the backyard so I could move in. How sweet!!

I really believe that teaching was my calling professionally and even more so spiritually. God has given me a love for high school students – even the ones who challenge my sanity – maybe especially those. I have enjoyed seeing the joy of discovery on the faces of students and hearing their excitement when they master a new skill in art class. I have learned so much from my students as well. That I will miss.

Mrs. Gayle Woody - 2015

Mrs. Gayle Woody – 2015

I am not retiring from my desire to honor God in all I do.

I will just be doing different things.

One of my underlying messages to students has been that life DOES NOT END AT 25, or 30, or 40, or, 50 – even 63!   I plan to exemplify that truth in the years I have left.

Colossians 3:16-17 are verses that have guided me since I was in college – especially verse 17.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

God is faithful. I anticipate with joy what lies ahead  – as I leave with sadness the co-workers and students of Smoky Mountain High School.

I have been richly blessed.


Painting by my Grandmother Svea Anderson Rohner

Painting by my Grandmother
Svea Anderson Rohner

“What do you enjoy about teaching art?”

I had to reflect this past week on teaching – specifically teaching art. The question was easy for me to answer – what I enjoy most about teaching art are the students!

It is really fun and inspiring to see the joy and excitement  – yes, these are high school students – on students’ faces when they master a new skill. When their drawing, painting, or ceramic piece turns out just as they planned, or maybe even better, you can see the pleasure reflected in their expressions.

It is so rewarding to see these students grow as artists, which is another one of the joys of teaching art. I have some of my students for 4 or 5 semesters – Art I through Art V.  I told one of my Art IV seniors today –  as she was recalling an incident in class when she was a freshman – “You have grown into such a lovely young lady!” She nodded and we laughed together. She knew how much she had matured!

I feel such pride and fulfillment with my students even though I know it is THEIR HARD work that brings about success. The best teacher in the world is only effective when the students follow through and do their work.

I was basking a bit in the glow of some of the students’ recently completed art work. I was so proud of them. It caused my thoughts to turn to God and how He views us as His creation.

In Ephesians 2:8-10 ( NLT) Paul talks about the fact that God created us with a purpose.

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

It says in verse 10 – “we are God’s masterpiece.” WOW! I like that. Artists consider masterpieces works of art of highest quality that retain their value and high regard over a period of time. God looks at us that way!

God gets excited when He looks at us – His creation. Unlike my students who must work hard to do good art work, verse 9 assures us that God’s gift of salvation is NOT dependent on how hard we work -it is a free gift from God.

What a blessing to think about the joy God feels when He looks at us – worts and all – and sees His creation. God’s word says He is blessed.

As mothers and grandmothers we also get a glimpse of what God must feel. Aren’t we blessed when our children learn new skills and get excited about what they have accomplished?

The next time you feel pleased and joyful about something your child or grandchild has accomplished –

remember  – God feels that same way about YOU!

You are His masterpiece.




Finding Treasure

This winter when our grandchildren were all here, Phil held a treasure hunt for them. He made up clues and even had a map (which I drew) so that they could find the next clue and eventually the hidden treasure.

They had so much fun!

The grandchildren that could read were the team leaders and the others helped once the clues were read. There was one misplaced clue – but all-in-all it was a success.

The treasure was found…

and eaten!

Last week some of the grandchildren returned and Lincoln wanted to design his own treasure hunt. He is in kindergarten and pleased with his new skill in reading and writing. Lincoln asked for “lots of paper, Nana” and began writing clues that would lead from one hiding place to another. The clues needed a bit of help in being “de-coded”. As with many early writers, Lincoln is in a hurry to express himself and doesn’t always leave spaces between the words. Any confusion was quickly cleared up because he knew exactly what he had written.

Lincoln’s clues were short and to the point – yet also effective. All the clues were found by his little brothers and ultimately – the treasure.

Gummy Bears!

treasure hunt 2

I was remembering the excitement that Lincoln expressed about making his own treasure hunt. He would not be able to participate by searching for clues – he was the one who wrote them. Yet he couldn’t wait for everyone else to find the clues and get the treasure.

It made me start thinking about how wonderful it would be if our children and grandchildren were as excited about finding real treasure.

Isaiah 33:5,6

5 The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high;
 He will fill Zion with His justice and righteousness.
6 He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

Here the prophet Isaiah tells God’s people the Lord is “a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge”. Now that is real treasure!

I need to start communicating clearly to my children and grandchildren that REAL treasure is from God. Isaiah says “the fear of the Lord is the KEY to this treasure”.

The Amplified Version expands my understanding of “fear of the Lord” this way. It says “the reverent fear and worship of the Lord.” This is the awe that I feel when I realize the majesty of God and His creation. It is the overwhelming sense I have when I understand that God, and God alone is worthy of worship.

I find this treasure when I put God first in my heart and mind – the ONLY place worthy of God.
So – where is my treasure?

Do my children and grandchildren know what I treasure?

Lincoln copied Phil because Phil had made the treasure hunt so enjoyable. What kind of things do children see me do that look enjoyable – that look like I treasure them?

  • shopping?
  • cooking?
  • gardening?
  • cleaning? …(uh, no they don’t see that)
  • using an electronic device?
  • reading?

We must all be intentional in sharing with our children what really matters. I do many things during a day – but what really has my HEART? Do I express the importance of Jesus in all that I do?

Finding Jesus is finding true treasure.